June 24, 2020 | By Hope C. Michelson

Featured Commentary - A "Resilient" Food System Built on Systemic Vulnerabilities

Editor's Note: Agri-Pulse and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs are teaming up to host a monthly column to explore how the US agriculture and food sector can maintain its competitive edge and advance food security in an increasingly integrated and dynamic world.

Images of COVID-related shocks to the American food system have stunned many of us: long lines of cars waiting at foodbanks; farmers dumping milk and burying onions and cabbages to compost back into the soil; empty shelves at grocery stores.  The ironies are blunt: too much supply in some places, but too little on the shelves in others. 

The food system has weathered these shocks impressively well, but the past months have also revealed structural vulnerabilities that we must attend to. Returning to “normal” is not good enough.

For many American consumers, food production and distribution tends to function seamlessly, providing stable quantities at consistent prices; most of us pay scant attention to how it works. We have taken for granted its production, its logistics, its labor force, its 24/7 coordination across time and space.

Our seamless domestic food system is not the global norm; food systems do not function smoothly and are not expected to in many countries, especially in low income countries characterized by lots of small-scale farming. The certainty of our own country’s low food prices and stable food supply is something of a marvel for what it accomplishes on a daily basis, especially in this crisis. It is efficient at its objectives; and its over-arching objectives are low cost and omni-present food. Yet our food system is also characterized by acute global and regional inequities in the production and distribution of food, the co-existence of hunger and plenty. 

Since the middle of March, however, food systems have had to respond to rapid changes. American consumers have been paying more attention.

>>>Read the full article at Agri-Pulse. 

About

The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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